Actor Frank Pellegrino, recognizable to mob-drama fans from Goodfellas and The Sopranos, has died at 72 after battling lung cancer, Variety and People report.
He played FBI New Jersey bureau chief Frank Cubitoso, the boss of Tony Soprano's nemesis, Agent Harris (Matt Servitto). Cubitoso and his team tried to turn Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) after learning his own mother tried to have him killed. Their pitch failed but they later had more luck with Adriana La Cerva (Drea de Matteo), the girlfriend of Tony's nephew.
Pellegrino's other roles include TV's Law & Order and New York Undercover and the films Cop Land and It Could Happen to You.
“We lost a part of New York today when we lost Frankie," longtime friend Bo Dietl told the New York Post's Page Six. He told the paper that Pellegrino died just before 2 p.m. at Manhattan's Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital, surrounded by family. There’s nobody like him, he’s an icon.”
That sentiment was echoed by friend and Fox Business News correspondent Charlie Gasparino in a tribute posted to Facebook: "Frank was so old school — tough exterior but had a heart of gold and he fought cancer as you would expect a street-kid from East Harlem would — until he could fight not more. To say Frank was a N.Y. legend is an understatement — he bled this city and its egalitarian promise."
Pellegrino also co-owned the exclusive, old-school Italian restaurant Rao's in East Harlem, which director Martin Scorsese, a frequent customer, used as a location in the film Wolf of Wall Street. Rao's can also be seen in the video for Jay Z's D.O.A. (Death of Autotune).
"People love to talk how no one can get a table at Rao's," Gasparino recalled. "Well, that's true but it misses the point. The tables were given out to old time customers when the place became hot some years ago. New entrants needed to wait their turn to 'own' a table, and it didn't matter who they were. Warren Buffet was one of those who wanted a table and faced Frankie's famous 'no.'"
Buffet did at least get an explanation — phrased in song.
"The Oracle was there as a guest one night a few years back," Gasparino recalled, "and heard directly in a way only Frankie could pull off. You see Frankie loved to sing to his patrons and that night as he was belting out The Temptation's classic My Girl, he turned to Buffett (and) sang: 'I don't need no money, fortune or fame. I've got all the riches, baby, one man can claim.' He did of course: His family, friends, his restaurant and his acting."
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